Part family history and personal anecdote, part business and motoring history, ‘Dyno’ Dave’s memoir is a valuable contribution to the literature of motoring in Australia.
Bennett is primarily remembered for two of his ventures. As the moniker ‘Dyno Dave’, bestowed on him by Norm Beechey, suggests, one was his pioneering use of dynamometers for diagnostic and performance tuning. Perfectune opened its doors in 1962 in Sandringham, Melbourne. The business went from strength to strength. Bennett subsequently went a step further, joining forces with Ross Schultz of Adelaide manufacturing and selling dynamometers.
The other was ‘Yella Terra’ heads. Holden six cylinder heads of the day were built to lowest common denominator, mass production engineering standards. Their potential was untapped. Bennett usefully explains that cylinder head modifications are essentially deep-breathing exercises for engines to increase the flow of gases and thus the efficiency of the passage ways. A bit of redesigning, tinkering, polishing, porting could see significant improvements in performance. The heads were painted yellow, hence the name.
Bennett was in the right place at the right time. The business of supplying changeover cylinder heads boomed. Ever larger premises and more staff were required. In 34 years 250,000 Yella Terra cylinder heads were supplied primarily for Holden sixes and V8s, as well as some Ford sixes and V8s. One of Bennett’s many astute decisions was linking with the handsome visage of one Peter Brock. Perfectune supplied heads for Brock’s HDT Commodores, and before that production heads for GMH for fitting to Torana XU1s and L34s.
Marketing was one of the things Perfectune/Yella Terra did best. Bennett never stinted on advertising and promotion, even at times of economic recession. Bennett was also something of a motoring polymath, using motor racing to promote his product. Apart from circuit racing Dyno Dave was heavily into drag racing, which also boomed in the 1960s.
Above all, Bennett was an energetic entrepreneur, making countless interstate trips and many excursions to the United States to market his products. He also invested in state of the art engineering machinery, lathes and tooling. He had- and has- every right to be extremely proud of his product and his own achievements. Yet one of the most pleasing aspects of the book is how it communicates the author’s genuine enthusiasm for fine engineering, designing and manufacturing cylinder heads, roller rockers and the like. This was a passion not simply a business.
One of the lasting impressions of ‘Dyno’ Dave’s memoir is to engender a profound sense of sadness for the deindustrialized Australia we now live in. Certainly there are still many workshops and individuals doing excellent work on cars and their engines. But the landscape of performance tuning with the likes of Waggott Cams and Perfectune/Yella Terra manufacturing and selling their products for Australian cars in large quantities is as dead as a dodo. The image of that prize idiot who also happened to be Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia at the time standing up in parliament shadow-boxing, daring General Motors to withdraw from local manufacturing, is an enduring one.
Though privately/self published the book is of high quality in hard back with few typographical glitches. Distribution for small publishers is often a problem but ‘Dyno’ Dave is readily available from either Automoto Books in Sydney or Paul Manton. The former has an excellent website.
Book by Dave Bennett, privately published, 2018 , 256 pp, no index, $59.95
Review by Ambassador Dr Andrew Moore.